It was with great interest and a very sore lip that I read soon to be former State Representative Orentlicher’s opinion piece in October 5th’s Sunday Star. The great interest was due to the fact that I acknowledge the problems facing IPS and the need to correct them. The sore lip came having bitten it repeatedly to prevent myself from screaming at some of the opinions expressed and disturbing the peaceful quiet morning that my neighbors were experiencing.
Let us look at his arguments and the rationale behind them.
It is true that students will be more inclined to focus on learning, and not how hot and miserable it is, in a properly lit and air-conditioned classroom. But he misses the mark when he states that it is the lack of air-conditioning that prevents IPS from hiring the brightest and best teachers. The true drawbacks are pay and a perceived lack of discipline (both educational and behavioral) on the part of students, too little of the former and too much of the latter. Having taught at the college level myself many years ago, I can say that teachers want and need students that are motivated to truly seek knowledge and not just occupying a seat. Add to this the fact is that inner city schools can induce a fear for one’s safety, if not directly from the students, then from the surrounding neighborhood, you see brilliant young teachers seeking employment elsewhere.
Proper lighting, functional restrooms and roofs that don’t leak are absolutes. There is no debate that these are must have.
The biggest question regarding the ballot issue and the completion of the 2001 plan is the continued relevance of the plan in light of steadily decreasing enrollments. Part of the Phase 3 plan calls for the construction of two new elementary schools, I feel that we must request IPS to delay their construction until a comprehensive review of their necessity is conducted. Additionally, we must ask if all the buildings scheduled for renovation are and will be fully utilized in the next 10-20 years; if not, then the renovations for those buildings must be delayed until a review of the possibility of consolidating schools is completed.
Representative Orentlicher’s assumption that taxes will be lower, due to tax caps, in 2010 assumes that local assessors will not be pressured by local governmental units to raise assessed values to meet the levy since tax rates will be effectively frozen at 1, 2 and 3%. What he also does not state in his opinion is that IPS has assumed that the average priced house is worth $75,000. Statistics like this can be misleading without a full disclosure of all the statistical parameters and the assumptions that went into their generation. The average, or mean if you prefer, is $75000. What is the standard deviation of this number? The standard deviation is a measure how widely the individual values that went into determining the average differ. For example, let’s look at two cases. Case 1 has 6 homes valued at $10000, $20000, $30000, $60000, $125000 and $200000. The average is about $74000, but the standard deviation is also about $74000 indicating that there is wide variation in the values. Case 2 also has 6 homes but the differences in price are much less, $59000, $64,000, $69,000, $79,000, $84,000 and $90,000. Again the average is about $74000, but the variation is much less and the standard deviation is only about $12000. In the first case the tax burden is going to be born mostly by the two higher priced properties, whereas in the second case the burden is more evenly distributed. Which case is the most democratic (the philosophy not the party)?
Another measure often looked at is the median. The median is a value that divides the highest 50% of the values from the lowest 50% of the values. In Case 1 it is $45000, half the values are above $45000 and half are below it. $45,000 is the value that is exactly halfway between $30000 and $60000. In Case 2 the median is $74,000 the value exactly halfway between $69,000 and $79,000. Here we see that the median is a better reflection of the true distribution of values than the average when the values are highly different.
Finally, I should like to add that, although Representative Orentlicher’s motivations are noble and sprout from a concern about the need to adequately educate our children and comply with all federal and state requirements, he does not reside within the area served by IPS. He is in fact a resident served by MSDS Washington Township, and he should direct his concerns towards the lavish wasting of taxpayer money by that district’s unrealistic and grandiose building plans.
We, as taxpayers and citizens residing in the IPS district should reject this bond referendum and ask IPS to go back to the drawing board and develop a different plan to accomplish these much needed renovations, a plan that best serves the students and the taxpayers who must provide for them.
On November 4th find the referendum question on the reverse side of your ballot and vote “No”.